Finding Inspiration in the Skies Above Hula Valley | IFCJ
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Finding Inspiration in the Skies Above Hula Valley

During the recent fall migration season, when millions of birds flew over Israel’s airspace, an Israeli writer and her husband went to Hula Valley to behold the beautiful spectacle – and learn its inspiring lessons.Twice a year, some 500 million birds migrate over the Hula as they travel from Africa to Europe and back — close to 400 different species of song birds, water fowl, and birds of prey. Seeking time together and an escape from the tension of current life in Israel, we set out for this avian wonderland one day in late November, temporarily replacing the clitter-clatter of keyboards and ringing of cell phones with tweets, and warbles, and squawks.The Hula carries with it a powerful message about the possibility of redemption and repair. In the 1950s, its marshland was drained in order to eradicate malaria and generate land for agriculture — a well-intentioned endeavor that disrupted the ecosystem and led to the extinction of some of the region’s unique flora and fauna. Over the years, the peat earth of the drained swamp dried up and sank, leading to uncontrollable underground fires, and pollutants began to flow into Lake Kinneret. In the 1990s, the Jewish National Fund rose to the challenge of restoring the necessary balance and re-flooded parts of the Hula, creating a haven for migratory birds and two-footed tourists alike.As we walk down the trails of the Hula Nature Reserve, a small remnant of marshland that had never been drained, the cotton candy clouds dotting the bright blue sky are reflected in the waters below, framing each scene with surprising symmetry. A turtle suns itself on a rock, snapping at the occasional fly, as sharptooth catfish with thick whisker barbels glide through the murky waters below. Above the surface, Bee-Eaters dart from branch to branch in flashes of rust and teal, and green tufts of papyrus reach for the sky.Their day of bird-watching, bike-riding, and even a covered-wagon ride is punctuated by the sounds of explosions and sirens in the distance, a grim reminder of Israel’s recent wave of terror.  When the sun has disappeared behind the mountains and the valley has turned inky black, I whip out my mobile and reconnect with the world. Nothing of significance seems to have happened in northern Israel, but in the blissful hours that we have spent in the Hula, two men were murdered while praying in a Tel Aviv synagogue and a shooting in Gush Etzion claimed the life of a Jewish school teacher, an Arab bystander, and an American gap-year student. The magic is broken, and my heart with it.There is no escaping the reality of life in Israel, but the message of the Hula is one of resilience. And so next year, like the birds on high, I will return to this enchanted valley, to be one with nature, two with my husband, and embrace the promise of wrongs that can be righted and balances that can be struck.Read this lovely Times of Israel essay in its entirety.


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